My grandmother lived across the street from a cemetery for more than 40 years. Whenever we would visit, Grandma Nina always took my sister and I for walks around the cemetery. She could tell stories about almost everyone buried there. If it wasn’t about the person themselves, it was about someone else in their family, or their descendants. We continued these walks for many years, until it was hard for Grandma to walk the uneven ground. There were also many summers where we would travel throughout the countryside with my parents to meet my grandma and aunt, visiting the graves of loved ones. One summer in particular, Grandma pointed out landmarks from her childhood as we stopped at cemetery after cemetery to place flowers. I think I may kidnap my sister for a day this summer and visit those same cemeteries, including the one that my grandma is now buried at. I doubt it was intentional, but my grandma taught me a lot about respect while walking all of those cemeteries. Not just respect for how to act in a cemetery, but respect for the people buried there and respect for what a cemetery is to so many people. I did not realize this until today.
Last night, a thunderstorm blew through in the middle of the night. The lightning and thunder woke me up more than once. Each time, the first thing I thought of was Kyleigh’s grave. Did the wind blow over any of the flowers? Are the flowers going to get ruined from the hard rain? I woke up just enough to have these thoughts and then faster than I could answer them, I was back asleep. When I awoke this morning, I was anxious to share my thoughts with Rodger. He assured me that everything would be fine, but told me to go over there this afternoon and check, just to be sure. So I did.
It was a beautiful day. The temperature barely got over 80, there was a nice breeze and the sun was out all day with barely a cloud in the sky. A perfect day to spend outside. As I sat next to Kyleigh’s grave and pondered life, a man and woman pulled up and started walking the grounds. It was clear that they were looking for someone buried there, as they had a bouquet of fresh cut flowers in their hand. It was also clear that they were unsure of where this person was. After they walked around for a few minutes, they came upon the person they were looking for, not too far from Kyleigh. It was clear by their reaction that they were disappointed by what they saw. Inside the vase were a few dried up flowers, nothing else. Nobody had left flowers over Memorial Day weekend, or for quite some time. I got up and walked the other direction, as to give them time alone.
When I arrived at the cemetery, all of the flowers at Kyleigh’s grave were just as we had left them a few days before. The storm had touched nothing. I should have known. You see, Rodger checked and double checked to make sure that the cross we put in the ground was secure enough to withstand wind. My dad did the same with the wreath that he and my mom placed there. It wasn’t going anywhere when I checked it today. All of the other flowers were secured as well. As I walked around, there were wreaths that had been blown over, flowers that had fallen over and trash that had escaped somebody’s hand. I carefully stood the wreaths back up, adjusted the flowers and picked up the trash.
I can’t take care of Kyleigh physically. God is doing that. I can take care of what I have left of her. That includes the cemetery. It is my job to make sure there are flowers in the vase. It is my job to change them out before they fade. It is my job to keep her grave looking nice and kept up. It brings me peace to walk around and read the names of those who are there with her. It brings me joy to adjust flowers in a vase or stand a wreath back up that has been blown over by the wind. I hope someone would do the same for Kyleigh. This cemetery has become a second home to me. My daughter is buried there and someday I will be by her side.
But there is more to this than taking care of flowers in the cemetery. It’s about not being forgotten.
As the couple approached the grave of their loved one today, it was clear that their disappointment came from others forgetting. As I walked around today tidying up headstones, I also paid special attention to those who had dried up flowers, faded flowers or no flowers at all. Those who had been forgotten. Now, I know it’s not fair to say all of those without fresh, bright flowers had been forgotten, but when you see a sea of beautiful wreaths and flags, it’s an easy assumption to make.
One of my biggest fears when Kyleigh died was that she would be forgotten. That people would not remember her birth, only her death. While that fear has subsided somewhat, it is still there. People tell us that they will never forget her, but it has only been eight weeks. Will she be remembered in five years? How about twenty? Or even fifty? Isn’t that a fear of all of us? Being forgotten? By walking around and paying attention to the names on the headstones, by picking up blown over flowers, by removing trash, by sitting on a bench that bears a family name, I am remembering. I may not know that person, but I am recognizing that they once lived and that someone cares.
When we went to the cemetery the day after Memorial Day, we saw all of the beautiful flowers that people had left for Kyleigh. Love pours out of her grave. Kyleigh has been loved more in these past eight weeks than some people receive in a lifetime. Seeing the flowers again today brought me comfort and peace. Comfort and peace in knowing that she will not be forgotten because I will always remember her.